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Lost in America

A Journey with My Father


Sherwin B. Nuland (View Bio)
Hardcover: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003; Paperback: Vintage, 2004.

Lost in America
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Winner of the 2003 Kenneth Johnson Memorial Award for the best book on mental illness from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill

"A work distinguished for its ferocious lyricism, power and audacity." — Dorothy Rabinowitz, The Wall Street Journal

"Visceral, impassioned...[it] brings a world into sharp focus.... One brief episode, involving something as ordinary as an afternoon at the movies, will sear your heart." — Houston Chronicle

"This is not a memoir masquerading as fiction, nor a re-imagined childhood. It is a careful search through memory by a competent storyteller. Sherwin B. Nuland tells his own story with the same generosity of spirit we sensed in his National Book Award-winning HOW WE DIE. The voice is that of a kindly physician with fiercely questioning intellect. LOST IN AMERICA is an important American story, a beautiful use of language and, perhaps most of all, a moving search for the truth." — The Sunday Oregonian

"Sherwin B. Nuland's book is the story of an intelligent, sensitive boy growing up in the South Bronx of the 1940s and '50s; as the story unfolds, it also cuts through the fog that surrounds a fascinating period of American history." — Austin American Statesman

"Riveting.... LOST IN AMERICA may well be a great book, full of feelings and memories that ring true, including many I was startled to recognize from my own early life. It certainly reads like one of those confessions that heal the soul." — The New York Times Book Review

"Readers of...HOW WE DIE marveled at [Nuland's] ability to be unflinchingly clinical, yet so clearly respectful of the ebb and flow of human life. His latest book reveals much of what shaped this cool observer and evocative writer.... [A] remarkable work.... A tragic portrait that is both terrible and beautiful in its clarity. Nuland, once again, has guided us to things usually found at opposite compass points. He shows how the immigrant father's failures inspired the son, who in turn grew up to be a saver of lives...and a writer who chronicles things dark and frightening with a contagious calm." — Seattle Times

"Nuland's narrative skills are superb. Instead of whining about his childhood — which has become a national epidemic, both literary and otherwise — his sifts back through it, re-examining, balancing the good and the bad, offering some surprises, some epiphanies. He sorts through a bewildering series of events and ailments — his own included — and finds a complex, multilayered story. He tells it elegantly and briefly. Who could ask for more?... Nuland tells unusually well this story of the immigrant generation." — Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)

"Nuland is one of our nation's eminent physicians and educators.... His works have had a profound and ongoing impact on medical education and patient care in America.... This memoir is refreshing in the unflinching and unsentimental manner in which Nuland narrates the story of his youth." — San Antonio News-Express

"LOST IN AMERICA is a memoir of a bitter and complex relationship, yet Nuland's deft and meticulous writing results in a portrait that is both empathic and unsentimental.... Few people, let alone surgeons, offer themselves for scrutiny with this much honesty, this much humility." — Readerville

"LOST IN AMERICA achieves what only the best memoirs do — allowing the writer to see his experience in a brighter, more penetrating light, and by so doing grant the reader a shared sense of discovery." — Newsday

"Intensely attuned to small gestures of suffering and consolation, Nuland studies his family's various illnesses and especially his father's gradual diminishment...with pained, humane attentiveness. This is a supremely gentle book, a sorting-through of powerfully unfinished business." — San Francisco Chronicle

"In his earlier books...Nuland wielded his pen like a scalpel, cutting away protective skin and revealing the rhythms of hearts and souls as they seek the answers to life's most perplexing questions. If any of us faced major surgery, we would want the Nuland of these earlier books for our doctor. Like Dante's Virgil, he leads us through the inferno of life and death with a quiet and reflective manner that provides assurance and calm. In the memoir LOST IN AMERICA, Nuland turns the scalpel on himself and shows us a man full of self-doubt and equal feelings of hatred and love for his father. With considerable courage, Nuland operates on the malignant spots in his life, succeeding in removing some and convincing us that others can never be removed.... Nuland's dissection of his font of memory opens in powerful and poignant ways how his journey with his father turns into a journey of self-understanding." — The Columbus Dispatch

"Heartbreaking. I highly recommend LOST IN AMERICA. It is admirable in its brevity, written with psychological insight, and permeated with the spirit of a fallible, belated, but sincere, filial love." — The Washington Times

"Haunting.... [It] avoid[s] the twin traps of nostalgia and emotional overkill...in beautiful, stark prose.... Deep, shocking, emotional impact.... Written with enormous empathy, yet without a hint of sentimentality, Nuland's memoir is both heartbreaking and breathtaking." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Gripping.... Nuland describes his family and emotions with a fullness and preciseness that make you feel you are suffering with him." — The Herald-Sun (Durham, NC)

"An important, unadorned view of immigrant life.... Well worth reading.... An intelligently nuanced, unromantic view of immigrant life in the first half of the 20th century, fraught with poverty and anti-Semitism, and one man's coming to terms with the troublesome, but finally loving, ghost of his father." — Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"A splendid, moving memoir.... [A] peer in [the] father-son classics of literary art." — Library Journal (starred review)

"A poignant and heartfelt memoir.... LOST IN AMERICA is, among much else, a son's attempt to come to terms with a father who evoked a bewildering mixture of conflicting emotions in him.... Nuland's unsparing, deeply felt and searching attempt to remember and understand his personal and familial past is no 'Daddy Dearest' but an illuminating journey into some of the darker areas of the father-son relationship." — Los Angeles Times

"A dark, distressful, and deeply felt memoir.... Charring and eloquent." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[Nuland] writes with clarity and compassion.... [An] honest and moving memoir." — Santa Fe New Mexican

"[An] unusual and powerful memoir.... Vivid...unforgettable." — The Jewish Week

"A great memoir.... The book is about real emotions, real places, real events, real struggles, real interactions between and among people. It speaks about near death experiences by electrical sockets, diptheria, the near death of a child by choking on fish bones, the Interborough Rapid Transit line that divides the East and West Bronx, street games and paternal calls home, the Shabbos meal on Friday evenings, the benediction of generous cousins, the imprisonment of father-son relations, the legacy of Nazi slaughters, and the abandonment of one name, 'Nudelman,' for another, 'Nuland.' But this list is a pale approximation of its role in the sweeping, two-hundred page narrative of the memoir — because all of the items on that list, in their telling, are infused with the meaning of the journey, with the emotions of father and son, with the ironic, if not tragic, truth that while...the son continually made his way into the light, despite — or perhaps because of — so many obstacles...the father remained perpetually lost.... If prose is a land-bound animal and poetry a bird in flight, Dr. Nuland's uncannily consistent writing style somehow combines both and creates a language that has a lot of gravity but still lies inches, or a few feet, off the ground through the course of the book. There are no spectacular flights of fancy but the language always defies what can sometimes be the deadly gravity of prose.... Words obey Dr. Nuland's call. I hate to use a medical analogy, to say that Dr. Nuland calls fo words in the way a surgeon calls for his surgical instruments, always using the right tool for the job at hand, but that seems to met how his words function.... Beyond the writing talent, Dr. Nuland brings a certain philosophy — or, perhaps, ethical system — to the writing of the memoir. The ethics...include kindness. They include understanding. They hold that the search for truth, which in itself may be elusive, can be redemptive. This philosophy of kindness and understanding invisibly permeates every sound in the book's silent language, as you read the words on the page, and it respects just about everything else: human frailty; the long, lonely journey through life; the riches granted to those who succeed in the American dream; the deprivations experienced by those who do not; the great gap between those two points; and the miraculous if sometimes heartbreaking communion that can also occur within them, within two generations, within the same family, between father and son." — Writers Monthly

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